Background: Bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) are pluripotent and thereby a potential candidate for cell replacement therapy for central nervous system degenerative disorders and traumatic injury. However, the mechanism of their differentiation and effect on neural tissues has not been fully elucidated. This study evaluates the effect of BMSCs on neural cell growth and survival in a retinal ganglion cell (RGCs) model by assessing the effect of changes in the expression of a BMSC-secreted protein, thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1), as a putative mechanistic agent acting on RGCs. Methods and Findings: The effect of co-culturing BMSCs and RGCs in vitro was evaluated by measuring the following parameters: neurite outgrowth, RGC survival, BMSC neural-like differentiation, and the effect of TSP-1 on both cell lines under basal secretion conditions and when TSP-1 expression was inhibited. Our data show that BMSCs improved RGC survival and neurite outgrowth. Synaptophysin, MAP-2, and TGF-β expression are up-regulated in RGCs co-cultured with BMSCs. Interestingly, the BMSCs progressively displayed neural-like morphology over the seven-day study period. Restriction display polymerase chain reaction (RD-PCR) was performed to screen for differentially expressed genes in BMSCs cultured alone or cocultured with RGCs. TSP-1, a multifactorial extracellular matrix protein, is critically important in the formation of neural connections during development, so its function in our co-culture model was investigated by small interfering RNA (siRNA) transfection. When TSP-1 expression was decreased with siRNA silencing, BMSCs had no impact on RGC survival, but reduced neurite outgrowth and decreased expression of synaptophysin, MAP-2 and TGF-β in RGCs. Furthermore, the number of BMSCs with neural-like characteristics was significantly decreased by more than two-fold using siRNA silencing. Conclusions: Our data suggest that the TSP-t signaling pathway might have an important role in neural-like differentiation in BMSCs and neurite outgrowth in RGCs. This study provides new insights into the potential reparative mechanisms of neural cell repair.
ASJC Scopus subject areas